Evangelical enquiry into the Royal Black

On 4th of October 2001 the Royal Black Institution made a representation to United Protestant Council (an evangelical umbrella group embracing different Reformed organisations within the UK) to affiliate with it. This application was declined on biblical grounds. The UPC in its examination into the request of the Black for membership drew attention to the disturbing activities we are looking at in this degree as a matter of the utmost concern. The evangelical grouping chronicled its unease to the Black with several reservations. We will look at these concerns in our examination into the Royal Black.

The UPC testified in its statement: “In the first degree the candidate while still blindfolded is asked to drink from a cup which he is told is Joseph’s cup. When the blindfold is removed he sees that he has drunk from either a human skull or a cup not made by human hands such as a coconut shell to represent a skull. Also present are human bones and there is no indication of who these bones once belonged to.”

In response to the UPC concern about this degree, the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of England presented a briefing paper to the umbrella group (15/07/04) defending its usage of human remains. It said, “With regard to whose ‘these bones once belonged to’ will always have to remain a matter of conjecture because most of them one suspects are rather old and it would be impossible to verify an accurate source …I would hope that the Royal Black Institution is not being accused of robbing graves!”

This last observation by the Royal Black Institution is quite astonishing, especially as it comes immediately after a bold admission that it owns an undefined collection of human bones. This statement therefore poses the obvious question: If the Black is not engaged in grave robbing, then who is stealing these bones on its behalf? How did it procure these remains? Plainly they have some established procedure for acquiring its relics. This is hardly a difficult question for a group that holds such large numbers of body parts – something it makes no effort to deny in this defence. The burden of proof is with the Black. They must show how (and why) it has these relics in its possession. Until they do, we can only assume that the Black has a grisly system of obtaining human skulls and bones from graves, which they are unwilling to divulge.

The Loyal Orange Institution of England in submission to the Council in defence of the Royal Black Institution (02/07/04) also acknowledged the use of human remains by the Black in its rituals, albeit it tried to play this usage down. The submission was written by its Grand Chaplain J.R.G. Harvey – who has been an active Black Knight for 20 years.

Mr Harvey states, “In the spirit of frankness with which this paper has been prepared we would acknowledge that there are a few Royal Black Preceptories where very old but nevertheless real human skulls and bones are emblematically displayed. The original source of these goes back far beyond living memory but we can speculate on what possible sources might have been. The Royal Black Institution was founded in the late 18th century at a time when public hangings and gibbetings were commonplace. They were hard times when human life and indeed human remains were not treated with respect that would be the norm today. Well into the early 19th century before the advent of cemeteries, many Churchyards were so overcrowded that multiple burials were carried out in the same graves with a few years apart and human remains from those earlier burials were simply excavated and thrown on the spoil heap to be later backfilled.”

Whilst the frankness of this admission is helpful to our enquiry, every active Blackman reading this will know that there are a lot more than just “a few old established Preceptories” that employ human bones in their meetings. Sir Knight Harvey understandably plays down the scale of this practice within the Black when defending the Order to the UPC. The truth is: this custom is widespread throughout the Black fraternity, being found in countless private Preceptories, County Chapters, Grand Lodge gatherings and lecturing conferences throughout the British Commonwealth.

United Protestant Council short statement rejecting the “Royal” Black Institution
United Protestant Council exhaustive report into the Royal Black Institution application

Read a detailed exposure of the Royal Black Institution:

Even if this tradition was limited to “a few old established Preceptories,” as Mr Harvey alleges, why does the Black not immediately stamp out this improper behaviour? After all, he does acknowledge that these remains were sourced at a time when “human remains were not treated with respect.” The Black Institution is therefore guilty of perpetuating this same disrespect. Even if only a hundred of the hundreds of Black Preceptories engaged in such practices, it does not address the problem. The leadership still governs an Institution that continues to use human body parts in its meetings in order to reinforce the secret doctrines of the Institution.

Despite what Mr Harvey asserts, these human remains are integral to the internal teaching of the Black – as we can see from the wording of the lecture we are examining. Human bones serve as important props in the Black initiation in order to impress its peculiar esoteric beliefs on the initiates. The chief proponents of these practices are the leadership and the lecturing fraternity (the teachers within the Institution). For many years they have overseen the management of these relics, guarding their usage behind a thick wall of secrecy and fear. The hierarchy has been a consistent obstacle to any moves for change or reform from within. This is especially evident when the Grand Chapter organises its lecturing conferences, when human relics are openly displayed.

Sir Knight Harvey continues, “It is certain that in such a climate, human bones could be obtained with ease for whatever purpose and whilst we would all strongly deplore such practices today, it is a fact that many good Protestant men and women of earlier centuries did not look at these things with our 21st century mindset. The continued use of such ancient skulls and bones in a few old established Preceptories is simply the maintenance of a practice which in some cases is over 200 years old.”

But the continued practice is here and now! Mr Harvey tries to justify the ritualistic usage of human bones by arguing that it “is simply the maintenance of a practice which in some cases is over 200 years old,” as if this somehow exonerates it. It would not matter if this practice had existed for 2,000 years, for this still would not make it right. Most idolatry that exists today has ancient origins. This is no different. Treating the remains of the dead with respect is not a 21st century innovation, an evolutionary advance by mankind in modern-times, or a practice found solely among committed Christians. It has been an established social duty in all ages, amongst all civilised peoples and amongst every prominent religious group throughout the world. So, Harvey cannot use the supposedly refined modern “mindset” as making the difference, and in any case, how can this justify the continuing use of these bones by the Black? What civilised community has any requirement for human bones, even in a climate where they could supposedly have been easily obtained?

Whilst he highlights the supposed lack of “respect” given to human remains in the 18th century (in contrast to how they are treated today), he belongs to an Institution that acts today in the very way he has just condemned. In fact, it would be fair to say that the treatment by the Black of the body parts it possesses is far more troubling than the so-called undignified way that bones were allegedly disposed of in the era he is talking about. Criminals were hanged in that day, and, paupers were often buried in large unmarked graves, but England was a reasonably sophisticated nation.

The remains of hanged criminals were normally buried – a right Harvey’s organisation does not extend to the remains of the dead it possesses. He does not provide us with any evidence of widespread malpractice in relation to the non-burial of human remains during the 18th century. Where is the historic information that indicates that this was a sizeable problem in that day? It seems he invents a scenario that has no comparison with the religious rites of the Black, but puts this forward to mitigate the inappropriate behaviour of the Royal Black Institution in this day and age. History proves that 18th century Britain treated the dead with the same respect as society does today, which cannot be said for the Order to which Harvey belongs. We are not talking about the dark ages here; we are talking about the century after the Covenanters and Puritans, the time when Whitefield and Wesley turned England upside down through the Gospel. Many would view that as a brighter spiritual time than now. The period being cited saw some of the strongest evangelical advances that the British Isles ever witnessed.

Plainly, his argument is illogical. It seems as though his defence is furnished as a smokescreen to hide the idolatrous rites of the different Black associations. Whilst we are considering indisputable evidence of the macabre activities existing amongst Black Knights in our day (which is evidenced by his own admission), Harvey advances non-related by-gone incidents that have absolutely no resemblance to the underground customs of the Black in his defence.

If the Orange Order is in any way suggesting that there was a day when the activities performed by Blackmen in these secret rites would have been acceptable to “many good Protestant men and women of earlier centuries” we beg to differ. Bible believing Christians would undoubtedly object to anyone describing men who dug up corpses and used their bones as drinking utensils in secret religious performances as “good Protestants.” Such men in any generation, in any civilised nation, would be viewed as the basest of men. They would definitely not have enjoyed evangelical backing. Any “good Protestant men and women of earlier centuries” who would have been acquainted with these dark ordinances in whatever generation would have been repulsed at them like us today.

Harvey concludes his defence of these Black rites by attempting to reassure the UPC about the reverent treatment afforded to these remains in Black meetings. It says, “Where such remains are displayed they are treated with the utmost respect and dignity and their continued use by the Royal Black Institution in such circumstances is in our view acceptable.” This statement is presented in such a way as to suggest that the Black is deserving of commendation for the way it treats the countless body parts it uses in its rites. This is quite astonishing, for the following reasons.

We recommend The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge by John Ankerberg and John Weldon

In one breath Harvey condemns the supposed mishandling of human bones in former days (although he provides no evidence of this), saying, “we would all strongly deplore such practices today,” yet in the next breath he defends the continued and current use of these relics by the Black Institution to which he belongs. He argues, “The continued use of such ancient skulls and bones in a few old established Preceptories is simply the maintenance of a practice which in some cases is over 200 years old.” He contends that “their continued use by the Royal Black Institution in such circumstances is in our view acceptable.” This is surely two-faced? When he suggests we would all deplore the misuse of body bits he demolishes his own argument, condemns his own Institution, and exposes it for what it is – a sinister religious grouping.

The fact that the various Grand Orange Lodges stood solidly against the Black Order from their commencement at the end of the 18th century right through to the beginning of the 20th century, shows that the claims of this leading Black Knight are completely wide of the mark. Opposition to this error within the Orange hierarchy during that period was in fact utterly resolute, and its condemnations were applicable throughout the British Isles. These Black practices were outlawed within Orangeism. This is in stark contrast to the apostate nature of the respective governing bodies of the Loyal Orders today which are completely controlled by ritualists. It is therefore fair to say that the abhorrence of decent law-abiding citizens today against the usage of human remains in Christian meetings would be fully applicable to respectable people in “earlier centuries.” They equally “would all strongly deplore such practices.”

Firstly, the critical issue is not whether these remains should be “treated with the utmost respect and dignity” during religious meetings, it is rather what are they doing there in the first place? As is the custom in most civilised societies, human remains should be laid to rest in an appropriate grave at the earliest opportunity. This would extend the proper “respect and dignity” to “such remains.” Secondly, how can the Black apologists pretend that drinking from these remains and parading them around the Preceptory could in any way be viewed as respectful or dignified?

That which stands out here is the Grand Orange Lodge of England’s ardent and unapologetic defence of these macabre rites. Far from denouncing these Black practices – as Orangeism did two hundred years ago – they instead present a broad justification for their usage. This is an indictment of the depths to which Orangeism has sunk. The Orange Order has become so infected by the ritualism of the Royal Arch Purple and the Royal Black Institution that it now advocates and defends such heathenish behaviour as its own. Instead, the Orange reserves its denunciation for those who would dare to oppose and expose the idolatry of these modern Black Knights.

It is submitted that these facts should cause any right-thinking Protestant to abandon both the Orange and Black Institutions. Both are inextricably connected. The Orange defence of the Black practices highlights the danger of remaining associated with such an Order, and therefore with both, for they are two parts of an overall whole. Certainly the dividing line between the Orange and Black is hard to discern today. The two groups are now virtually indivisible. They have gradually integrated their systems in all but name. The vulgar practices under consideration here reside at the top of the Loyal Orders’ triangle. This is what awaits every Orangeman who reaches the peak of his Loyal Orders journey.

The Royal Black Institution further add (in its briefing paper to the UPC), “The use of the skull and bones has been used for hundreds of years as symbols of mortality, that each one of us has to face death unless we are still alive at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Where in the Bible is this condemned is a question that needs to be answered by those who condemn its practice” (15/07/04).

This concluding question in the Black statement beggars belief. It is a question which should doubtless shock most evangelicals and cause them to wince at the very advancement of such a challenge. The old moral surely rings true: ‘Do not gauge a person by his answers; gauge him by his questions’. No truly Christian organisation would throw out such an outlandish challenge at Bible-believing Christians. Evangelicals should not have to explain to the Black Institution why the use of human remains during their meetings is unacceptable. The Scriptures do not specifically condemn every possible evil or act of misbehaviour – e.g. nakedness or gambling, within the Christian assembly – but Christians know from the applied moral principles of Scripture the marks of good and bad practices.

Most people, even non-Christians, would find such a practice revolting, and recoil at the very idea of such obscene behaviour. Any ordinary citizen would have little difficulty in providing an inventory of reasons why this Black communion is improper. So, obviously, it is not difficult for Christians to show the Royal Black Institution why its practices are in serious conflict with Scripture, and unbecoming to a civilised organisation, never mind a grouping claiming the name of Christ.

In response to the Royal Black Institution challenge, we will outline the appropriate biblical method of dealing with human remains. Before doing so, we will address the claim that “the skull and bones” have been used for centuries to impress “mortality” upon men and the reality that “each one of us has to face death unless we are still alive at the second coming.” We wonder precisely which assembly of professing Christians the Royal Black is referring to. They should be willing to clarify such a broad assertion. For there is no evidence of any evangelical group ever feeling the need to dig up human remains from a grave and employ them to emphasize such spiritual truths as the brevity of life, mortality, the solemnity of death and life beyond the grave in its ministerial exhortations. The Word of God is a sufficient means of revealing such mysteries as these to man.

We would recommend a revealing book written by David W Daniels – Should A Christian Be A Mason:

Biblical analysis of the Royal Black degree

All the Black Degrees

The Royal Black Institution consists of eleven degrees, as follows: –

(1) Royal Black degree – exposed and biblically examined
(2) Royal Scarlet Degree – exposed and biblically examined
(3) Royal Mark degree – exposed and biblically examined
(4) Apron and Royal Blue degree – exposed and biblically examined
(5) Royal White degree – exposed and biblically examined
(6) Royal Green degree – exposed and biblically examined
(7) Gold Crown degree – exposed and biblically examined
(8) Gold Star and Garter degree – exposed and biblically examined
(9) Crimson Arrow degreee – exposed and biblically examined
(10) Gold Link and Chain degree – exposed and biblically examined
(11) Red Cross degree – exposed and biblically examined

The Institution also possesses a final retrospective degree, which is essentially an overview of the 11 degrees that the candidate has traversed.

Red Cross Grand Charge – exposed

Purchase direct: Inside the Royal Black Institution

For more information, please William Schnoebelen’s enlightening book Masonry Beyond the Light

Protestant/Evangelical opposition to the Loyal Orders

United Protestant Council initial report into the Royal Black Institution application
United Protestant Council exhaustive report into the Royal Black Institution application
The Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland report on Loyal Orders
A Theological Report by the Church of Ireland – on the RBI
Reformed Presbyterian Church and the Orange Order
The Covenanter Witness (Reformed Presbyterian)
The Burning Bush – A Publication by Rev Ivan Foster, a Free Presbyterian minister.
Baptist Magazine
Rev. Norman W McAuley (Presbyterian Church in Ireland)
Independent Methodist Pastor Paul Johnston
The English Churchman (Rev Dr Paul Ferguson)
Church of Ireland General Synod Sub Committee
Ulster Christian
Take Heed Ministries (Cecil Andrew)
British Churchman (Johnny Larner)

Bible-believing former members renouncing the Loyal Orders

Former Royal Black Deputy Grand Chaplain (Rev. Canon Brian T. Blacoe)
Former Royal Black Lecturer, Orange Worshipful Master and Royal Arch Purple Worshipful Master (Malcolm McClughan)
United Protestant Council Chairman (David Carson)
Former County Down Orange Treasurer, Worshipful Master, Deputy Master, and Chaplain – Jackson Blakely
Former County Londonderry Orange and Royal Arch Purpleman Andrew Evans
Former County Armagh Orange, Royal Arch Purple and (Red Cross) Blackman Alex Newell
Former County Tyrone Orange Chaplain and Orange/Small Purple Lecturer Paul Stewart (also former Red Cross Blackman)

Lodges Examined by the Bible by John R. Rice